There’s a sign you see at any night market when entering Shanghai’s Central Plaza Night Market. It reads: “The breeders of the world are in Shanghai.”

City mice and cockroaches, hyenas and bees might be more familiar to the Western mind. But why isn’t it birds? Birds are beautiful, and intelligent, and clever, and downright decent creatures. Animals that seem a lot more severe than their human counterparts.

Birds are unsung heroes in human existence, correcting faulty devices as soon as they arrive on a perch, racing their fellow crows over the crate of items they want to get a piece of, or stomping out sparks from a discarded beacon so it will keep working.

So how do they do it? If an engineer’s brain was a continent of flying crows, they’d probably add another two to the start of the time line, spending most of their time laying hundreds of eggs or crushing each other into death.

For one, they’re remarkably versatile when it comes to using other members of their species. Their darting distances and ability to see well after dusk make them excellent search-and-rescue team members, hunting prey (and themselves) from the air, while their blind vision means they can scout undetected for days on end.

Wagging their tails or chirping into their wastebaskets are all they need to establish dominance. He’s a birdie, his own man.

Next, remember a little bit of muscle power, the stuff of which stunt man and karate enthusiast Mike Tyson used to be famous for.


They’ve got the killer instinct of rats but the avian agility of ostriches, and they’re able to use incredible memory and spatial awareness to adjust flight paths and confront obstacles. Sure, they might misjudge your speed by a few feet, but as the Plomo Bird and Dolphin Company says in a promotional video, they can cheat all day long.

Their landing points are mostly made of feathers, but ever-evolving technology can help them get where they’re going. This is a thought on the part of Gary Field, who does design work for Airbus. He has seen them land on car roofs and take off from the roof of glass structures.

He says it’s possible that electric technology could help them land properly in a city. The company that trains and breeds them has done some ground tests, but the design the simulations could prove to be unreliable in a rush-hour field of 50 to 100 birds.

This is just a company. Plenty of experiments and reports have been done elsewhere. So is it possible they’ll eventually find a way to solve this problem, and mark their territory by landing and taking off whenever and wherever they like?

They’re brilliant, aren’t they?